The gender pay gap narrowed slightly between 2003 and 2004 to its lowest value since records began, according to the government's annual survey of hours and earnings.
Women's median hourly pay was 85.7% of men's, compared with the 85.4% recorded in April 2003. The median hourly rate for men went up 4.9% to £11.04, while the rate for women increased by 5.3% to £9.46.
Jobs held by women were almost twice as likely to fall below the minimum wage as jobs held by men (1.4% compared with 0.8%). This was entirely due to the greater number of women in part-time jobs.
The largest difference was in the East Midlands, where women's median pay was 82.6% of men's. The smallest gap was in Northern Ireland, at 94.8%.
Median weekly pay for full-time employees in the UK grew by 4.7% in April 2004 to reach £422. Median earnings of full-time male employees were £462 per week in April 2004; for women the median was £358.
Weekly earnings in London were £541, significantly higher than in other regions, where they ranged from £372 in Northern Ireland to £449 in the South East.
The monetary difference between the median level of full-time earnings in the public sector (£453 per week in April 2004) and the private sector (£408 per week) has widened over the year to April 2004; in 2003 the figures were £431 and £393 respectively.
• What women want, p42.